You may have heard of The ketogenic diet, perhaps not. It is, in a nutshell, a low carbohydrate diet, focused on the consumption of natural fats, with adequate intake of proteins in order to reach optimal ketosis (the formation of ketone bodies ).
With typical Western diets, most people obtain 45-65% of their calories from carbohydrate. The ketogenic diet, on the other hand, limits your carbohydrates to just 2 to 5% of your total calories.
Many people think this is a “high protein” diet, which is actually false, the ketogenic diet is a high fat diet with moderate intake of protein and carbohydrate restriction.
A typical meal for a ketogenic diet includes some protein foods with natural fat (butter, coconut oil , olive oil , lard, cream) and some green leafy vegetables.
Ok, now we have all that out of the way, let me give you some information on how you can start the ketogenic diet properly. We’ll be exploring; what foods you can eat, what to stay away from, also how to calculate your macronutrients and get into ketosis. Sounds a lot, but I assure you it’s fairly straight forward, as you will see below.
Glucose is the simplest molecule to convert and use as energy for your body. Your body will choose this molecule above all other options.
Insulin is a hormone that occurs to metabolize glucose present in your blood. As glucose is the main energy source used, your body stores this in reserve.
When you digest high carbohydrate foods , your body to uses the energy and turns them into blood sugar (glucose). The more carbs you eat, the more carbohydrates glucose in the blood rises. Like many diabetics know only too well, too much glucose in the blood is toxic to our bodies.
However, if you feed primarily on natural fats and protein, your body reshapes its energy source. Instead of using glucose, your body begins to use fat as its main energy source. This is the cause of rapid weight loss on the ketogenic diet.
If you reduce carbohydrate intake drastically, it forces your body to use fat as an energy source, the liver converts fat into ketones, these function as a source of energy, the body reaches a state of ketosis. So needless to say, reaching the optimal state of ketosis is the main goal of the ketogenic diet.
By the way, ketones are excellent source of energy for the brain and heart.
When your body has high levels of ketones it is said that you are in ketosis.
Do not confuse the ketogenic diet with diabetic ketoacidosis , which is a totally different ketogenic diet. Ketosis in diabetic ketoacidosis is when you have high blood glucose levels with high levels of ketone body pathology. In the ketogenic diet you have low glucose levels with high levels of ketones.
Different types of ketogenic diet:
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet:
1. Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This type of ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, high in fat and moderate in protein. Carbohydrates containing 5%, 20% and 75% proteíans fat. This is the Ketogenic Diet (SKD) most people will refer to when a keto diet is mentioned.
2. Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): This diet has 2 cycles, 1 to 2 days diet low in carbohydrates and high fat, followed by a period of two days of high – carbohydrate diet in order to build glycogen stores. It is used mostly for bodybuilder and doesn’t have a great deal of research behind it.
3.Targeted Ketogenic Diet(TKD) This variation of the Ketogenic diet is similar to CKD, but you can add carbs before training and after training. This variation is ideal for athletes and those involved in high intensity sprinting.
Sprinting on a low carbohydrate diet isn’t a great idea, this goes doubly when someone is also on a low number of calories. On the other hand, people who are maintaining or trying to gain weight on a CKD could try sprinting, but it’s still not going to be as easy as someone consuming the standard amount of carbohydrate.
4. High – protein ketogenic diet: This diet is similar to regular ketogenic diet, but includes much more protein. It is used more by athletes. This diet consists of 5% carbohydrates, 60% fat and 35% protein.
In this article we will only be looking at the standard ketogenic diet. The cyclical ketogenic diet and targeted ketogenic diet are geared more towards athletes and bodybuilders.
The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight
There is no doubt that the ketogenic diet is a very effective way to lose weight and reduce your risk of metabolic diseases. Research in recent years have found that this type of diet is far superior to low – fat diets, particularly when it comes to fat loss. ( 5 )
In a study in the UK, they discovered that patients who were on the ketogenic diet lost weight 2 times faster than patients who followed the diabetic diet recommended by the UK authorities. ( 6 )
As the Ketones increased, this decreased blood sugar and helped improve insulin sensitivity. ( 7 )
Foods you can eat and which you should avoid on the ketogenic diet
To be successful on the ketogenic diet, it’s important to plan your menu. The notion of eating out when you’ve forgotten to take lunch with you is a risky one. You really don’t want some processed high in carbohydrates fast food to make you fall out of ketosis and undo your efforts.
The one essential thing to remember is that the more you limit your intake of net carbs, the faster you will reach the optimal state of ketosis.
What are net carbs?
These are the total carbohydrate content of the food minus the fiber content and sugar alcohols (if there are any in the product). The Net Carbs number should be the grams of carbohydrate that significantly impact your blood sugar levels – these are the only carbs you need to count. Foods that are low in Net Carbs are nutrient-dense vegetables and certain fruits, these don’t have a big impact on blood sugar and therefore not as likely to interfere with weight loss.
Example, if you want to eat a cup of broccoli, one cup of broccoli has:
It has 6 grams of carbohydrates
It has 2 grams of fiber
We subtract 6 grams of carbs – 2 grams fiber = gives 4 grams of net carbs
Your intake should be 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrate.
Carbohydrates you can eat (you must count calories to not go over 5% daily) are: nuts, vegetables and dairy products.
Foods You Should Avoid In The Ketogenic Diet
In short, you should avoid or eliminate any food that is high in carbohydrates.
Here is a a list of foods you should reduce or eliminate within your ketogenic diet.
Sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cakes, snow, etc.
Grains or starches: Products made from wheat, rice, pasta, cereals, etc.
Fruit: A majority of fruit should be avoided because of the high sugar contents. Many people still eat berries, but you still have to exercise portion control with these. Be particularly careful about raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries..
Beans or legumes: peas ,beans, chickpeas and lentils, etc.
Vegetables and Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.
Products or low-fat diet: These are highly processed and often rich in carbohydrates.
Some spices or sauce: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat, sauces such as Barbebue sauce, ketchup, salad dressings. Spices also have carbs – but there’s certain ones that have more carbs than others. These include onion powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, allspice, bay leaves, ginger and cardamom.
Unhealthy Fats: Limit your consumption of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
Alcohol: Due to the high carbohydrate content, many alcoholic beverages will harm your state of ketosis.
Artificial sweeteners: These often are rich in sugar alcohols, which can affect your ketone levels. These foods are highly processed. There have been reports of people being knocked out of ketosis after consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners. There are also studies that report on a link between sugar cravings and artificial sweeteners – so these will make it harder for you to curb those cravings.
Foods to eat In The Ketogenic Diet
Your meals should be based on these foods:
Meat: Red meat, meat, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
Fish: such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
Eggs: Consume whole eggs containing omega-3.
Butter and cream: Preferably coming from grass fed animals.
Cheese: Cheese Raw (cheddar, goat, cream, blue cheese or mozzarella).
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Healthy oils: Mainly try to consume extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
Avocado: whole or freshly made guacamole Avocados.
Low Carb Vegetables: The majority of green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers.
Seasonings: You can use salt, pepper, herbs and spices.
It’s best to base your diet on these foods.
Snacks You Can Eat On The Ketogenic Diet
In case you’re hungry between meals, here I leave a list of snacks you can eat on the ketogenic diet.
Fish or meat
A handful of nuts or seeds
Cheese with olives
1-2 boiled eggs
Dark chocolate (90% or more of pure cocoa).
A low-carb milk like almond milk, cocoa powder and almond butter.
Yogurt mixed with almond butter and cocoa powder.
Strawberries and cream
Celery with guacamole and salsa
List of low-carb vegetables you can eat:
If you want the full list of low – calorie vegetables to reach ketosis click here .
Most of your meals should have protein and vegetable fat added. Example: Chicken with oil, broccoli with cheese and olive oil. If you get hungry during the day you can eat almonds or some cheese.
Attention: Remember that not all fats are equal. Trans fats (like fried food, processed meat burger very, margarine) are very different to natural fat such as coconut oil , avocado , olive oil. The latter fats have a great deal of benefits for your health, while trans fats are health destroying. Just know that whenever you eat processed foods, you’re usually dealing with trans fats. Avoid wherever you can.
Occupy fewer grams of high fat foods that foods high in protein or carbohydrates, because a gram of fat has 9 calories, one gram of protein or carbohydrate has 4 calories.
This is a diet that produces ketones, is low-carbohydrate, high in natural fats and gives you an ability to lose weight fast. It treats gastritis, lowers triglycerides and also treats fatty liver .
This diet has many more benefits than are popularly advertised. The antioxidant power and anti – inflammatory benefits of ketosis are very powerful. In fact, studies have used ketosis to treat multiple metabolic syndromes.
It has excellent results in people with metabolic diseases (such as diabetes) and has shown excellent results in controlling these diseases. ( 1 ) ( 2 )
This being used experimentally for possible treatment of some cancers and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. ( 4 ) ( 5 ) ( 6 )
This diet is not a new diet by any means. In 1921 it was used as a treatment for refractory epilepsy in children with nearly 60% effectiveness. ( 7 )
1. The Ketogenic diet helps you lose weight, lower cholesterol and triglycerides while preserving your muscle mass.
The is one of the best diets to lose weight. Most people on ‘normal’ (high carb) diets are in a state of glycolysis where the body depends on blood glucose for energy. When your body is fed glucose your body stores fat as energy reserve (this is why most people can’t lose weight). Added to this, the ketogenic diet is also excellent for your health (although everybody is different).
In a “normal” metabolic state if your body needs energy:
First uses glucose in your bloodstream as energy source
If you do not have glucose in the bloodstream it converts liver glycogen to glucose
If you do not glycogen as an energy source, it will use your muscles and fat (fat being the last resort)
Ketosis the fat goes first !! There is no risk of losing muscle, your body becomes a laser targeted fat burning machine So it is the best diet to lose fat and preserve as much muscle as possible (bodybuilders use this diet to define their muscles).
Eating 70% fat and low carbohydrate 5% triglycerides and cholesterol
This diet goes against traditional “healthy” eating. However, there are hundreds of studies over the past 30 years showing a low – carb diet to be better than a low – fat diet. The problem is that our food industry is designed to follow the low – fat diet (by an erroneous decision in 50s). This was when food companies had a big influence (and perhaps not so impartial) say over what was good for us. It was believed that you could lose weight on the ketogenic diet, but your cholesterol would increase.
In patients with diabetes it was able to control the disease , in many cases remove the need for drugs. (Warning: if you are diabetic you should do the diet under medical supervision, since this diet is often very effective at lowering glucose, so you’ll require adjustment of medication).
The first thing to do is drastically limit your intake of carbohydrates, since ketosis only happen when carbohydrates can no longer be used as an energy source and as you finish your glycogen stores.
Ideally, you have 65% of your calories come from fat, 30% protein and only 5% from carbohydrates.
It is important to eat enough protein to prevent muscle loss. You should also increase your intake of fat to maintain your normal energy levels.
How long does it take to adapt to a state of ketosis?
It will take 10 to 30 days on the ketogenic diet if it is the first time on it. During the adaptation phase, you will experience dizziness, headache and fatigue. But hang in there, in a few weeks you’ll feel great.
What are the side effects of the ketogenic diet in the keto adaptation phase?
There are very real withdrawal symptoms from carbohydrate dependence. Your body’s physiology will drive until basal insulin levels decrease to where the proper low insulin level will signal the liver to begin producing ketones (ketosis) and even glucose (gluconeogenesis). At the same time, receding insulin levels will allow fatty acids to be released from adipose tissue into circulation to provide calories. You will also feel:
Tiredness, eat an adequate amount of protein and fat to avoid this.
Reactive hypoglycemia – If you ate too many carbohydrates your body is accustomed to releasing too much insulin, so your glucose goes down. Read more about it here .
Polyuria (increased urination times). Ketosis has a diuretic effect, so increase your water consumption to compensate.
Anxiety: You can take supplements of L-Glutamine to solve this.
If you go to the gym you will notice that your strength and stamina decrease, this is normal for 2 weeks while your body gets used to lipid metabolism.
There is no danger from going on the ketogenic diet unless you have kidney problems or are a diabetic type 1. Just remember that the first weeks you will probably have headaches and fatigue, but if you put up with that, you’ll be in better health in a few weeks.
How to start a ketogenic diet
1. Decide on a way to count carbs . I recommend using afitbit, The popular wrist band counts steps, and acts as a diary for your daily food, indicates how many carbohydrates each food has and the amounts of macronutrients and calories you need.
2. Debug the carbohydrates in your fridge. Search all carbohydrates you have in your refrigerator or store and give them away to your neighbor, or someone you know. Be sure not to have bad carbs in your home (no need to have temptation staring you in the face everyday).
4. Be prepared to spend a little more time in the kitchen . This is very important. A menu of the ketogenic diet involves eating real food and cooking. If you can’t cook, try and learn a little cooking, there are many easy to prepare ketogenic recipes.
5. Plan your meals menu. This will help you buy the food needed when you go grocery shopping and helps you to know what you are cooking day to day. If you know you’re eating salmon and broccoli in the evening, it’s easier to avoid falling into bad habits of eating refined carbohydrates.
6. Change your habits. If before you went to work for a donut coffee and mocha frappe, change it by going to the coffee and havinggreen tea and 10 almonds.
7. Stay hydrated . Taking six to eight glasses a day.
8. Find a way to keep track of food and carbohydrates you consume daily. This is very easily done with a fitibit.
9. Do not focus on your weight . Do not obsess over weighing yourself every day, after all the body needs to reach ketosis for that to happen. Focus instead on the health benefits you will be getting on this type of diet.
Tips for Eating Out and No Break Your Diet
It is not difficult to find a restaurant that is ketogenic diet friendly.
All restaurants offer dishes based on meat or fish. You can always order these dishes and replace any food high in carbohydrates with vegetables.
You can also eat foods that have eggs, such as an omelet, or eggs with bacon.
One of my favorites is eating hamburgers without bread. You can change the fries for vegetables, and add avocado, bacon or cheese.
In all Mexican restaurants, you can substitute any food high in carbohydrates for meat, extra cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.
When you want to eat a dessert, you can ask for strawberries with cream.
What are the side effects of the ketogenic diet and how to minimize them
Although the ketogenic diet is safe there are some side effects, while the body adapts.
The effects usually last a few days.
The most common side effects are feeling moody, having little energy , increased appetite, insomnia, nausea, upset stomach and decrease in your athletic performance.
In order to minimize these effects, you can start with a low-carb diet during the first weeks. This can help your body burn more fat, before completely eliminating carbohydrates.
The ketogenic diet can also vary the water and minerals in your body, so you’ll need to add more salt to your meals or take mineral supplements.
Try to consume at least 3.000 to 4.000 grams of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium and 300 mg of magnesium daily to minimize these side effects.
I recommend you eat until you feel satisfied and avoid counting calories. Usually, the ketogenic diet at the beginning causes weight loss without being overly strict with calorie counting.
Supplements for Ketogenic Diet
Supplements are not required, but can definitely help.
Fitness and training have always been a huge part of my life. As a nutrionist and health writer of over 5,000 fitness, weight loss and nutrition articles, I believe in the old adage, eating to live rather than living to eat. That being said, I think healthy food should be tasty and fitness should ALWAYS be fun.